New South Wales Local Government, Clerical,
Administrative, Energy, Airlines & Utilities Union
Inquiry into paid maternity, paternity and parental leave
New South Wales Local Government, Clerical, Administrative,
Energy, Airlines & Utilities Union
(United Services Union)
Level 7, 321 Pitt St. Sydney NSW 2001
Ph: 02 92658211
Contact Person: Lyn Fraser, Research Officer
Authorised by Ben Kruse, General Secretary
The USU is appreciative of the assistance of Elizabeth Susan Anderson, a student
placement from University of Newcastle for her contribution to early drafts of this submission
and particularly her work in gathering information on existing maternity leave provisions
available in Awards, Agreements and policies.
This submission contains a review of industrial instruments which provide paid
maternity/parental leave provisions for members of the United Services Union.
Whilst these provisions are funded by the employers, they are usually the result of
union campaigns and negotiations between union and management - and later
ratified by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. In some instances
organisations provide for paid maternity/paternity leave by way of policy. However
provisions made available through policies can become vulnerable following
organisational change – such as a change at the policy making level or changes
emanating from privatisation processes.
Some USU members are covered by paid maternity or parental leave provisions
which were negotiated through federal industrial instruments. Our national body, the
Australian Services Union, is making a submission to the Productivity Commission,
and this USU submission does not intend providing detail of these federal
arrangements. Nevertheless this submission does refer to the situation of private
sector clerical and administrative workers covered by the USU in NSW.
A majority of USU members are employed in NSW local government but the USU is
also a major union in the ‘energy industry’ in NSW. Paid maternity/paternity leave
provisions in both these industries tend to be more generous and more prevalent
than those where members have less industrial strength – particularly those
employed in private sector clerical and administrative occupations in small size firms.
From the USU experience, it is clear that whilst progressive local government
employers were prepared to provide paid maternity leave by way of policy, very few
employees would have received access to paid maternity leave if it were not
available through the common rule award.
A universal national system of paid parental leave, with fourteen (14) weeks paid
maternity leave and two (2) weeks paid paternity leave, would be an advantage to
many workers who currently have no access to paid maternity leave. However, the
USU notes with interest that momentum is building among our members for the
federal government to establish a system of 6 months paid maternity leave with full
wage replacement. These issues will be further debated at the 2008 USU
The difficulties faced by workers trying to balance work and family life are factors
which are fuelling demands for more flexible arrangements in the workplace and the
call for a range of leave provisions, including paid maternity leave. Figures from the
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have demonstrated the increased participation
rate of women of childbearing age in the workforce (from 59% in November 1980 to
71% in November 2005).1 In addition, the skills shortages are becoming increasingly
evident in a range of industries highlighting the need for employers to adopt
strategies to attract and retain staff.
In this context, it has been possible for a major employer association (the Australian
Industry Group), the peak national union organisation (the ACTU) and the federal
Sex Discrimination Commissioner to come to agreement about the need for a
national, government-funded scheme of paid maternity leave.2
The United Services Union congratulates the Rudd Federal Government and the
Productivity Commission for the current inquiry into paid maternity, paternity and
parental leave. The Union is hopeful that recommendations from the inquiry and
follow-up policies and action by the government will assist parents to balance work
and family life.
About the United Services Union
The United Services Union was formed on 21 May 2003 following the merger of two
branches of the Australian Services Union – the Municipal Employees Union and the
Clerical and Administrative Branch of the ASU.
The United Services Union (USU) has approximately 32,000 members and
represents local government, energy, airline and clerical and administrative
employees throughout NSW. The largest proportion of USU members are employed
in the local government industry. The Union has branches and organisers right
across New South Wales.
Negotiates Collective Agreements
Protects rates of pay
Protects conditions of employment
Protects against unfair dismissal
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends 2007.- Article: Maternity leave arrangements, ABS
Catalogue No. 4102.0, Canberra, Page 1.
Broderick , E, Burrow, S, Ridout, H, Maternity Scheme is Overdue, The Age Online, viewed April 15 2008,
Provides conciliation and arbitration services
Provides industrial advice and representation
Acts to protect the health and safety of members at work
The Union works on various campaigns aimed at improving the quality of life of
members, their families and their communities. Issues taken up by the Union have
included: long service leave, maternity & paternity leave, sick leave, working hours
and conditions that many employees enjoy but often do not realise come from the
collective strength of unionism.
The Union is a registered organisation of employees under the NSW Industrial
Relations Act. Both the USU and the national body – the Australian Services Union
intend making a submission to the current enquiry.
The ABS report on maternity leave arrangements3 noted the following:
There are disparities in the use of paid maternity leave, particularly across
sector, industry and occupation. In 2005, just over three-quarters (76%) of
women who had worked as employees in the public sector in their last main
job while pregnant used paid maternity leave, compared with just over one-
quarter (27%) of women employees in the private sector.
In the pages which follow, it will become clear that the public sector/ private sector
disparities are evident when comparing arrangements in local government and state
owned corporations with those of workers employed in the private sector as clerical
and administrative workers.
Energy and Utilities
The United Services Union has members in energy generation, transmission and
distribution/retail. A large proportion of members are female workers employed in
call centres and administration roles across the state. Many of these workers have
access to 14 weeks paid maternity leave made available through enterprise awards
and, in some instances, organizational policy arrangements.
The following summarises parental leave provisions which appearing in awards and
agreements that cover USU members in the energy industry.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends 2007 Summary -, Maternity Leave Arrangements ABS
Catalogue No. 4102.0, Canberra, Page 4
Country Energy Enterprise Award 2007 (Clause 29 Parental Leave).
The parental leave provision is in connection with the birth or adoption of a
child. Paid maternity leave and adoption leave provides for 14 weeks full pay
or, in the alternative, 28 weeks at half pay. Paid paternity leave provides full
pay for 1 week or in the alternative, 2 weeks at half pay.
Energy Australia Agreement 2006 (Clause 32 Parental Leave)
This agreement provides up to 14 weeks of paid leave (or 28 weeks at half
pay) for employees who are eligible for maternity leave without pay under the
Industrial Relations Act In addition, Sub-clause 32.4.1 of the agreement also
provides to employees not eligible to maternity leave, 1 week’s paid parental
leave on successful application, in accordance with Energy Australia’s
parental leave policy.
Integral Energy – Conditions of Employment Agreement 2007 (Clause
9.8 Parental Leave)
Paid maternity leave is provided for 14 weeks at full pay or 28 weeks at half
pay. It also grants one week full paternity leave. Paid paternity is provided for
1 week at the time of the birth of their child or other termination of pregnancy.
Transgrid Employees Award 2006 (Clause 35 Parental Leave)
Employees eligible for maternity or adoption leave under the Industrial
Relations Act 1996 are entitled to receive up to fourteen (14) weeks paid
leave (or twenty-eight (28) weeks at half pay) at their ordinary rate of
remuneration. In addition, up to one (1) week of paid leave (or two (2) weeks
at half pay) is available for paternity leave.
The following summarises paid leave provisions provided by way of policy
Paid maternity leave is made available by way of policies, for members
employed by Macquarie Generation, Eraring Energy and Delta Energy.
The policies provide for 14 weeks paid leave at full pay.
However, as has been noted above, provisions made available through
policies can become vulnerable following organisational change. In the
Energy industry, such policies could be threatened by the type of privatisation
or leasing strategies which have been debated in the NSW political arena.
Private Sector Clerical and Administrative
Despite Union efforts to have paid maternity leave inserted into the USU’s main
common rule private sector award – the Clerical and Administrative (State) Award-
in previous years, these efforts were not met with success. With the advent of the
Howard Government’s Workchoices regime many employers were defined as
“constitutional corporations” and cease to operate within the NSW industrial relations
Generally speaking, paid maternity leave provisions covering clerical workers in the
private sector are less generous than those in the public sector. Indeed, in most
small establishments paid maternity leave is not provided at all. However some
establishments do provided such leave but are, more likely than not, relatively larger
private sector employers.
Examples of existing arrangements are as follows:
Qantas: Ten weeks paid maternity leave provisions (on full pay) are included
in its Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. However, twelve (12) weeks paid
leave are made available by way of policy.
Newcastle Permanent Building Society: Six weeks paid parental leave
(after 12 months continuous service) capped at either a full rate or at 12
weeks half pay. Employees must return to work for 12 months on a minimum
of two days a week to retain the benefit.
Greater Building Society: Six weeks paid parental leave (after 18 months
continuous service) capped at either full pay of at 12 weeks half pay.
Employees must return to work for six months at either a part time of full time
NIB Health Funds: six weeks paid parental leave (must have completed
probationary period of six months). Employees must return to work for 12
months to retain benefit. An extra two weeks payments on anniversary of
return from leave will be awarded plus and extra two weeks payment after
second anniversary of return from leave.
The Local government (State) Award is the main industrial instrument for most local
government employees in NSW. However, there are some councils in New South
Wales that operate under their own industrial instruments – for example, Sydney City
Council and Newcastle City Council have their own Awards. In addition, Wollongong
City Council operates under an enterprise agreement. In addition to these
instruments, councils may provide additional provisions by way of policies or
Local Government (State) Award
The Local Government (State) Award is a common rule award providing a safety net
of terms and conditions of employment for most local government employees. The
introduction of paid maternity leave into the Local Government (State) Award 2001
represented a significant step in addressing employment equity issues in local
The proportion of women employed in local government has increased significantly
in the last two decades and research indicated that these women play both an
important economic and caring role in their families.4
Maternity leave was a burning issue at the 1999 Women’s Conference, leading to an
extensive campaign to introduce paid maternity leave into local government through
cooperative negotiations with councils. Some councils voluntarily introduced paid
maternity leave provisions by way of policies. However success was limited and the
Union commenced proceedings to include paid maternity leave provisions in the
Local Government (State) Award. At the time of the Award hearing, there were only
nine state award councils across NSW that had paid Maternity/Parental Leave in
council policies. These included the following:
o Ashfield – paid parental leave capped at 6 weeks and paternity leave 1 week.
o Bankstown -8 weeks by way of maternity, paternity and adoption leave.
o Burwood - 12 weeks paid maternity leave.
o Canada Bay – up to 9 weeks maternity leave.
o Canterbury - up to 9 weeks maternity leave.
o Leichhardt - 12 weeks maternity leave.
o Manly – up to 9 weeks.
o Newcastle - 9 weeks parental leave.
o Penrith - 9 weeks maternity leave.
It was clear from the Union’s experience that whilst progressive employers were
prepared to provide paid maternity leave by way of policy, the majority of employees
across the state only gained access to the entitlement when it was made available
through the common rule award.
The historic victory, resulting in the inclusion of nine (9) weeks paid maternity leave
on full pay (or 18 weeks at half pay) into the Local Government (State) Award,
delivered real benefits to thousands of workers throughout NSW. It had followed
months of negotiations between the Union and the Local Government & Shires
Association, which lead to a consent agreement which was ratified by the NSW
Industrial Relations Commission on 1 November 2001.
L. Fraser, Paid Maternity Leave in NSW Local Government: Employment Equity Aspects and Anticipated Take-
up Rate, Federated Municipal & Shire Council Employees Union of Australia, NSW Division, Sydney, 2001.
Since the inclusion of the paid maternity leave provisions into the common rule
award, some councils have introduced higher provisions over and above that of the
State Award. These include the following:
Leichardt: In 2007 former mayor of Leichhardt, Alice Murphy, introduced a
paid maternity leave policy capped at 14 weeks.
Hawkesbury: Paid maternity leave policy capped at up to twelve (12) weeks
leave based on years of service.
Baulkham Hills: Paid maternity leave is capped at nine (9) weeks under the
State Award; however, under an Agreement a Return to Work Bonus has
been awarded to employees returning from approved maternity leave
(maximum of twelve months). This is capped at a one off allowance of
$1000.00 following twelve (12) months full time employment, and employees
returning early on a part-time basis will be entitled to an allowance on a pro-
Local Government Enterprise Awards/Agreements
In New South Wales, two of the 152 local councils operate under their own
enterprise awards. They both provide paid maternity leave provisions:
Sydney City Council: provides paid maternity leave at 14 weeks full pay and
28 weeks at half pay. Paid maternity leave is awarded to those who have
completed 12 months continuous service.
Newcastle City Council: provides parental leave at 9 weeks on full pay
provided only to permanent staff.
In addition, Wollongong City Council operates under an enterprise agreement.
Wollongong City Council: Clause 51.13 of the Wollongong City Council
Enterprise Agreement states that permanent employees will be entitled to:
i. Maternity Leave - 60 days on full pay or 120 days at half pay (for the child
bearer). Public holiday/s which falls within the paid period of maternity leave
will be added to the end of the paid maternity leave.
ii. Paternity Leave - nine (9) calendar weeks of full pay for the primary carer
(does not include the child bearer). There is no provision for extending the
period of paid paternity leave for public holidays that fall within the nine
Clause 51.15 furthers that:
Where the parents are both employees of Wollongong City Council, up to 12
calendar weeks full paid leave or 24 calendar weeks at half pay (child bearer
only) can be shared. The shared leave can be taken in any arrangement
requested providing the primary carer (not the child bearer) can only take full
paid leave up to a maximum quantum of 9 calendar weeks.
United Services Union Position
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommends a minimum of 14 weeks
paid maternity leave. This recommendation was urged after the ILO adopted a new
Maternity Protections Convention in June 20005 . The union is of the view that a
national system of paid maternity leave of 14 weeks paid leave would improve the
situation of many working women, particularly those who currently have no access to
paid maternity leave.
At the United Services Union 2007 Conference, a motion was put to the members
which included a call on the Federal Government to provide the following:
A national system of government funded fourteen (14) weeks paid
maternity leave and two (2) weeks paid paternity leave.
Better access to more affordable high quality child care.
Rights for parents to request secure part time work or flexible working
hours until their children are at school.”
This motion was carried, indicating that members are keenly aware of the need for
improved paid maternity, paternity and parental leave provisions and wider access to
However, as the skill shortages continue to take affect and families are under
increased pressure to balance their work and family lives, momentum is gaining
within the USU membership to call upon the Rudd Federal Government to introduce
a system of six months paid leave – which is in line with World Health Organisation
(WHO) recommendations for optimal growth of the infant, recovery of the mother and
the exclusive need for breastfeeding.
To this end, the USU, is participating in a Unions NSW campaign for a six months
paid maternity leave scheme. Indeed, a regional manifestation of the campaign was
launched at Kings Langley Childcare Centre with the support of Julie Griffiths from
United Services Union (USU), Adam Kerslake from Unions NSW, Blacktown Mayor
Leo Kelly and Blacktown MP Paul Gibson.
The campaign is asking for a legislated, government funded system of six months
universal paid maternity leave, available to all mothers irrespective of whether they
are casual, full time, contractors or stay at home mums. It is also argued that the
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Valuing Parenting Interim Paper, Sydney 2002, p29.,
leave should be able to be accessed by parents who are assuming the primary carer
Campaigners argued that the system needs to match the changes demanded of the
contemporary workforce whom experts say may have five career changes in their life
time. This means that full wage replacement is needed through a system of
collectively pooled contributions by employers, similar to the long service leave
model that operates in the construction industry.
This submission has indicated that industrial instruments in local government and
energy as well as a small number of private enterprises contain maternity/parental
leave provisions. However the United Services Union envisages undertaking future
negotiations with employers to extend existing employer provided provisions of paid
maternity/parental leave provisions to 14 weeks at full pay where such arrangements
do not already exist.
Previous USU Conference resolutions have called upon the federal government to
introduce a national system of government funded fourteen (14) weeks paid
maternity leave and two (2) weeks paid paternity leave.
However, the United Services Union notes, with interest, the debate regarding a
federally funded scheme for 6 months paid maternity leave. We consider that there
are positive aspects to this approach and are therefore participating in the Unions
NSW campaign aimed at achieving this goal. The matter will be debated at the
Union’s conference later this year. Indeed, at a USU Women’s Committee meeting of
28 May 2008, a resolution was passed whereby a motion would be put to the Union
Conference “seeking the support of Conference to strongly endorse the Unions NSW
campaign for a minimum 6 months paid maternity/parental leave…”
Regardless of any new system that may be established, the USU is of the view that
mechanisms implemented should not disadvantage employees in receipt of paid
maternity/parental or paternity provisions made available through Awards,
Agreements or policies.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends 2007.- Article: Maternity
leave arrangements, ABS Catalogue No. 4102.0, Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends 2007 Summary -, Maternity
Leave Arrangements ABS Catalogue No. 4102.0, Canberra.
Broderick , E, Burrow, S, Ridout, H, Maternity Scheme is Overdue, The Age Online,
viewed April 15 2008, <http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/maternity-scheme-
Fraser, L. Paid Maternity Leave in NSW Local Government: Employment Equity
Aspects and Anticipated Take-up Rate, Federated Municipal & Shire Council
Employees Union of Australia, NSW Division, Sydney, 2001.
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Valuing Parenting Interim Paper,